John Witherspoon, veteran actor and comedian, best known for starring as Mr. Jones in the Friday movie series, and voicing Gramps on The Boondocks, died on October 29, 2019. He was 77.
Witherspoon is survived by his wife, Angela Robinson-Witherspoon, whom he married in 1988, and their two children, Alexander Witherspoon and John David Witherspoon. A cause of death was not immediately given. Witherspoon was one of 11 siblings, among them Dr. Gertrude Stacks.
His family confirmed in a statement to Deadline: “It is with deepest sorrow that we can confirm our beloved husband and father, John Witherspoon, one of the hardest working men in show business, died today at his home in Sherman Oaks at the age of 77. He is survived by his wife Angela, and his sons JD, Alexander, and a large family. We are all in shock, please give us a minute for a moment in privacy and we will celebrate his life and his work together. John used to say ‘I’m no big deal’, but he was a huge deal to us.”
Born in Detroit on January 27, 1942, Witherspoon’s career in comedy got started in the late 1970s, appearing on The Richard Prior Show, and other TV series such as The Incredible Hulk, What’s Happening!!! and Good Times. Witherspoon booked his first film role in 1980, in the movie The Jazz Singer, and continued to work steadily in both TV and film.
In 1995, Witherspoon was cast as Mr. Willie Jones in the cult classic, Friday, starring opposite Ice Cube and Chris Tucker. The fourth movie in the series, Last Friday, is still in pre-production, and Witherspoon was set to star in before his death. The comedian was also known as “Pops” after four years of playing John Williams, the father of Shawn Williams (Shaws Wayans) on The Wayans Bros.
Witherspoon was also incredibly popular for voicing Robert “Grandad” Freeman on the long-running animated series, The Boondocks. He filmed 55 episodes and was likely going to be a part of the series upcoming reboot on HBO Max.
Here’s what you need to know about John Witherspoon…..
1. Witherspoon’s Wife Angela Is Also an Actress
Witherspoon was married to Angela for 42 years, and she also continues to work in the industry as an actor. She guest-starred on My Crazy-Ex Girlfriend, Like Family, Criminal Minds, Ugly Betty, and Joan of Arcadia.
Recently, the couple took a vacation together to Saint-Tropez and looked as in love as ever. Angela caption the photo with the hashtags “Family is everything,” and “married life rocks.”
Via Witherspoon’s Twitter account, Angela and the family left a personal message for his fans. They wrote, “It is with deep sadness we have to tweet this, but our husband & father John Witherspoon has passed away. He was a Legend in the entertainment industry and a father figure to all who watched him over the years. We love you “POPS” always & forever.”
2. Witherspoon’s Son JD Followed In His Comedy Footsteps & His Godfather Is David Letterman
Witherspoon’s son John David caught the acting and comedy bug. Like his father, he performs stand-up and has voiced a character on The Boondocks. He’s been married to wife Pilar Teaspoon, a blogger and YouTube personality, for two years.
When JD was born, Witherspoon chose his godfather to be a veteran comedian and former Late Show host, David Letterman.
On Tuesday night JD tweeted, “So…my Dad died today & honestly I’m not sure how to feel. I’m sad, but I’m also happy 4 all the great times we had together. We’d roast each other like homies more than Father & Son, and I really liked that. He was my best friend & my idol. Love U Dad…I’ll miss u.”
3. Witherspoon Had Upcoming Comedy Shows Booked in December & Multiple Movies In Production
The beloved actor, while continuing to appearing sitcoms such as Black-ish, The Wayans Brothers, and Anger Management, along with animated series such as BoJack Horseman and Animals, always returned to the stage to do what he loved most: stand-up.
Witherspoon never stopped performing and at the time of his death, had three upcoming performances in Arlington, Texas, scheduled December 12 to December 15.
He also kept working on the screen. In addition to the fourth sequel to Friday, he had just finished filming for the movie Bring Me the Head of Lance Henriksen and was a series regular on the TV Show, Black Jesus.
4. He Was the Only Actor Other than Ice Cube to Appear In Every ‘Friday’ Film
Not every actor appeared in all the Friday sequels, except for Witherspoon and Ice Cube, which is all the more impressive considering the latter also wrote the films alongside DJ Pooh.
But Witherspoon’s film career far extended those cult classic films. He starred in Bulworth, The Ladies Man, Dr. Doolittle 2, Little Nicky, Vampire in Brooklyn, Soul Plane and The Hustle.
5. Celebrity Tributes Flooded Twitter With Their Condolences
DJ Pooh, who wrote all four Friday movies, was one of the first to tweet out his condolences upon hearing about Witherspoon’s death, as was actress Regina King, who starred in the Friday movies as Dana Jones. As news of his death spread, more celebrity tributes came pouring in on Twitter.
John Apatow tweeted, “Pure funny. Hilarious and always kind. John Witherspoon will be missed.”
Sinbad tweeted, “John Witherspoon, Beloved ‘Friday’ and ‘The Waynes Bros.’ Star, Dead at 77 | Entertainment Tonight. “When they say OG and inspiration… that’s Johnny Witherspoon. One of my early heroes and a beautiful person. My prayers are with the family! Love you!”